Income

The rise in inequality experienced in the United States in the past three-and-a-half decades is not just a story of those in the financial sector in the greater New York City metropolitan area reaping outsized rewards from speculation in financial markets. While many of the highest-income families do live in states such as New York and Connecticut, IRS data make clear that rising inequality and increases in top 1 percent incomes affect every state.

The rise between 1979 and 2007 in top 1 percent incomes relative to the bottom 99 percent represents a sharp reversal of the trend that prevailed in the mid-20th century. This earlier era was characterized by a rising minimum wage, low levels of unemployment after the 1930s, widespread collective bargaining in private industries, and a cultural and political environment in which it was outrageous for executives to receive outsized bonuses while laying off workers. Today, millions of Americans feel tremendous anxiety about their grasp on the American Dream.

Publications

Connecticut Voices for Children’s Issue Briefing Book 2020-2022

Connecticut Voices for Children released their Issue Briefing Book 2020-2022.  Versions of this document have been developed throughout the 25 years of the organization’s history. As the state experiences the convergence of a health crisis, an economic recession due to that crisis, and a contentious and long-overdue conversation on race, the “Book” has been refreshed given Voices’ new, strategic aim toward economic justice and these unprecedented times. The Issue Briefing Book 2020-2022 is designed to be a starting point for shared knowledge around the research and recommendations that are fundamental to family economic security and the undergirding fiscal and economics, with the hope of advancing shared action.

Abridged Brief | Full Brief

The State of Working Vermont 2019

An economist looking at Vermont statistics can see that the state is benefiting from the U.S. economic expansion, which became
the longest on record last summer: There are more jobs, higher wages, fewer children in poverty.1

At the same time, many Vermonters can look at their paychecks and wonder when the recession is going to end. The state’s
economic growth continues to favor those who are well off, while low- and moderate-income families wait for things to pick up.

Both views are true.

The State of Working Wisconsin 2019: Fact & Figures

  • August 30, 2019
  • COWS
  • Laura Dresser & Joel Rogers

Each year on Labor Day, COWS draws a picture of how working people in Wisconsin are faring. The long report, The State of Working Wisconsin, is released biannually on even-numbered years and looks at the economy comprehensively from a working-family perspective. In odd-numbered years, like 2019, we provide a more abbreviated and focused report, called The State of Working Wisconsin: Facts & Figures.

On some of the most well-known economic indicators, there is good news for Wisconsin workers. The unemployment rate in the state has been consistently low. The economy is steadily adding jobs. These are important measures for working people’s lives. When jobs are more available not only is it easier to secure a job, it is also easier to get the hours of work you want, to be able to ask for time-off you need, and to make ends meet. This Labor Day, with the memory of the Great Recession of 2007 now fading from memory, workers across Wisconsin have this good news to celebrate.

Even so, many working families in the state feel stressed and stretched. In this report, then, we provide information on few key long-term trends that are contributing to the stress even in the context of low unemployment. Looking across the last forty years, the challenges working people face are clear. Wage growth has been anemic. Income inequality is reaching new highs. Unions, which have been so critical to supporting workers in this state, are in serious decline. Additionally, state policy, which could be helping to close gaps, is actually exacerbating these trends. From tax changes that reward our highest income families to rejection of health insurance to cover our families in need, policy continues to pave the low-road for our state.

State of Working Pennsylvania 2019

In just the past few weeks, leading American business leaders appear to have experienced a sudden and surprising bout of conscience. On Monday, August 19, the Business Roundtable, which represents the largest U.S. corporations, issued a statement signed by 181 CEOs that embraced stakeholder capitalism—the idea that corporations have obligations to employees, the community, and customers, as well as shareholders. On the next day, Tom Wilson, the chair of the executive committee of the U.S. Chamber published an op-ed titled “Save Capitalism by Paying People More.” Wilson acknowledges in blunt terms that ordinary working Americans aren’t flourishing economically. (For excerpts from Wilson’s op-ed, see Box 1 near the end of this report.)

This year’s annual “The State of Working Pennsylvania” documents the accuracy of Wilson’s observation in Pennsylvania. To be sure, this report does have a bit of good news. In 2018, for the first time since 2001, Pennsylvania workers enjoyed wage increases across the board—3.1% on average across the entire wage distribution (i.e. from the 10th percentile to the 90th percentile). These gains reflect what is now the longest economic expansion in U.S. history and an unemployment rate in Pennsylvania below 4% for the first time since before 1976.

Acknowledging this progress, the longer-term picture remains one of meager gains for workers. Over the last economy cycle, from the 2007 peak to 2018, the annual average increase in the Pennsylvania median wage has been less than half a percent. Even now, some slack remains within the Pennsylvania job market, which helps explain why wages in this expansion took so long to kick up. Underemployment remains above the 2007 pre-Great Recession level and the employment rate (share of adults aged 20 and over employed) remains below the 2007 level. If the employment rate today were at the 2007 level, Pennsylvania would have another roughly 150,000 jobs. Looking over a longer period, since 1973, the top 1% in Pennsylvania received 46% of the total increase in income in the state.